Venetian Rapier: The School, or Salle

Jack Marvell
Special to The Pennsic Independent

Tom Leoni, master of the modern translations of Italian fencing manuals, is back with the publication of Venetian Rapier: The School, or Salle.
Unlike Leoni’s previous work, The Art of Dueling, his sprawling, well-regarded translation of the Lo Schermo, overo Scienza d’Arme (1606) by Salvatore Fabris, Venetian Rapier is a minimalist tome — a 57-page distillation of the principles of the Italian rapier fight.
The book is a translation of a 1606 fencing manual authored by Nicoletto Giganti, who is both pragmatic and terse in his advice: “The whole artistry in our discipline consists of this: when you launch an attack, the opponent should receive a hit.”
Venetian Rapier does not offer a comprehensive theoretical system of rapier fighting, rather Giganti provides a practical curriculum for learning historical techiques.
The principles and techniques that Giganti sets down are familiar to any student of Italian rapier theory: guards and counter-guards, taking the tempo, the cavazione, gaining the sword, voids. He also includes a much more recognizable version of the modern lunge than advocated by Fabris.
Unlike the repertoire of diverse and sometimes acrobatic guards offered by Fabris, Giganti, in the section of the book dedicated to single sword, confines himself to versions of a simple high terza, both to the inside and outside lines, with examples of counter guards. He offers a pared down section of rapier-and-dagger guards, focusing on three “deceitful” guards that offer the fighter opportunities to capitalize upon time and measure.
Importantly, Giganti is rather clearer than Fabris in his explanation of “gaining the sword,” an essential technique that basically involves pre-parrying an attack, and offers more examples:
“To set yourself against the opponent’s guard, stand out of measure, with the sword and dagger high, strong in your body placement and with your stance firm and secure; then, examine the opponent’s guard and slowly proceed to gain the sword by just about resting your blade over his, as if covering it.”
There are flaws to the work. The illustrations are of rather poorer quality than those found in the Art of Dueling, as the anatomical proportions of the figures can be rather skewed. Leoni also points out that there are distinct discrepancies between some of the images and the descriptions found in the text, surmising that the illustrations could have originated as generic stock images.
Venetian Rapier: The School, or Salle is published by Freelance Academy Press, www.freelanceacademypress.com. Revival Clothing is hosting Freelance Academy Press at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 10. There will be a special opportunity for author autographs and to meet and socialize the the Press team.